Several years ago I had the opportunity to attend an experiential learning-type personal development training. Little did I know walking in that it would change my life. To say it bluntly, I found I had some shit that I needed to clean up.
Seeing faults and toxic tendencies is a sobering experience. It can be impossible to accept about ourselves unless we are ready to confront self-realization and growth. Please keep this in mind when you have an issue with someone.
The training I attended felt like therapy on steroids. The training pushed me to be vulnerable as well as face my fears head-on.
During this three-month training, I learned several things about myself. I am going to share the two most significant “ah-ha” moments… two things that changed my world.
Certain moments/aspects of my life significantly influenced how I once felt about myself. Among them:
- My birth mother kept me with her for the first several months of my life; she chose to give me up for adoption.
- I lived with a foster mother with whom I bonded (she named me Shari). I wonder why my birth mother hadn’t chosen my name.
- After another six to nine months, I matched with a family. But for some reason, the adoption was not finalized, and eventually, when I was two years old, I was placed with my adopted family.
I have an adopted family who I love deeply. I have lovely childhood memories. Although my physical needs were well-met, there were times when I did not feel the emotional support I may have thought I needed. I realize now we all do the best we can as a parent. We all get to work through trials and errors throughout our years. Can you relate?
When I started having children, I began having questions about the first year of my life. Who rocked me to sleep and counted my toes? I found myself looking for my birth mother and was able to locate and have one phone call with her which didn’t turn out at all as I had hoped, ending with being told she had nothing to say to me and that I was dead to her, ending with her hanging up. That memory still chills my bones as I write this.
I got married at 20 to a guy who had ambition and plans. He had his emotional baggage and cheated on me. We worked with a therapist named Nadine. After seemingly endless months of work with her, I realized that I had married my mother; meaning, I started to realize that similar to my adopted mother and my birth mother, my husband was not equipped to give emotional support or unconditional love.
Before the hours working with Nadine, I never recognized the pattern. I thought this type of relationship was typical because that was how I grew up. Nadine helped me understand that it could never provide for a healthy relationship.
After twenty years of marriage, I finally realized I deserved toa better relationship, and we were divorced.
So, why was the training we started talking about so crucial to me?
My first big Ah-Ha moment was that because of the recurring messages I received throughout my life, and I subconsciously felt unworthy of being in a healthy relationship. Because of the adoption, I felt unwanted. However, I found I could choose to feel differently about myself, and that those experiences no longer need to define who I am. It was my turning point. And it was when I began to let the old mentality go.
During the training, I was asked to create a contract with myself; to choose words that describe myself, but was not comfortable in saying.
My contract became:
I am a powerful, beautiful, worthy woman. Through my strengths, I inspire acceptance, love, and compassion.
I said this affirmation out loud every day for years until I genuinely believed the words.
As an adult, I wondered why it was not easy or natural to have relationships with women. I had plenty of guy friends, but I often felt on the outside with a group of women.
During the training, we experienced a process called Feedback Arches, where I stood in front of a semicircle of my peers. I was told to remain silent while each person in the arc would give me feedback on their impressions of me. After each person would give their input, I would then tell them, “Thank you for loving me enough, to be honest with me.”
Different people took their turn sharing their impressions, and then a woman said something that cut me to the core: “Why would I want to be your friend? You’re so critical of yourself; I can only imagine how critical you would be of me!” Before she finished, I had tears running down my face. I understood. My self-talk was hurtful. I had been saying mean things to myself for years. I did not love myself, and it showed.
To this day I am convinced that had I not had that realization, I would still have a difficult time making friends with women. That day in training I made a new female friend, her name is Analee, and her feedback was loving yet challenging to take in. But she was right, and I knew it.
We all can have toxic subconscious tendencies that sabotage our best interests. I know I experienced growth over those months of training. I learned how to deal with myself in a completely different way, and I use those newly acquired skills every day.
The changes that I made and the skills that I learned have created the pathway to the happiness that I now experience every day of my life. Shari